Monday, June 30, 2008

Goodbye Brian Rolston

Last season was a tough year for any Wild fan. They won the division and then got knocked out in the first round. After a few days mourning, though, most fans recovered and were ready for the coming year. It seemed promising. We knew they'd lose a few players in the off-season, but they are young. There was the potential for the team to get even better. Young players like Bouchard and Burns proved themselves over the year and were sure to be stars in the coming season.

But today the Wild traded away their rights to resign Brian Rolston to the Tampa Bay Lightning. It was really a good move, they get a third or fourth round draft pick (depending on whether or not Rolston actually signs with them) and he wasn't going to sign with the Wild today anyhow. This is a tough day. Rolston toyed with us, he said he wanted to play in Minnesota, and that his family had no intention of moving anywhere (though he did say today that Minnesota isn't out of the picture, but let's be realistic). Then Rolston and his agent quit responding to the Wild. They were given four separate offers and never made so much as a phone call to say no. So, he's gone. In Rolston they lose a leader, a veteran who is still getting better, a key player on the power play and a big scorer.

He needs to be replaced. But it's really not possible this summer. The free agent market is weak, and the best players are sure to be scooped up tomorrow when teams are allowed to formally begin offers to free agents.

The market is weak and getting weaker.

The Wild acquired a couple of young defense-men that are sure to be a great addition as the defense was really the weak spot throughout the year, and especially in the playoffs, when it was revealed how shallow their defense really was by the loss of a couple of key players. Now it looks like the offense is starting to thin out. Rolston is gone, and the Wild has made no effort to resign Pavol Demitra (which puts a big question mark over their negotiations with Marion Gaborik whose contract is up at the end of next season). The big question is whether or not, in this weak market, they can replace such key players and come back a better team next season.

Riseborough has talked a lot of about Andrew Burnette, who played for the Wild up until the lockout. he is a free agent and has been vocal about his approval of a return to Minnesota. No doubt, he's a good player, and would be a great asset to a team losing some key players. He also helps out with the Gaborik question. Burnette and Gaborik were close and that may help influence negotiations as we find out if Gaborik really will become a franchise player. But Burnette doesn't replace Rolston, maybe Demitra, as Burnette could potentially play wing on Gabby's line, but he cannot take Rolston's spot as a defense-man with a shot on the power play.

There had been some talk about signing the Penguins Ryan Malone, who is also a free agent. But under new ownership, management and coaching staff, the Lightning are out to rebuild this year and have already signed Ryan Malone and former Penguin Gary Roberts (for peanuts). So there go two more forwards off the market, and in Roberts a vet with a shot who is tough as nails. There doesn't seem to be a player on the market who can replace Rolston. There is still the possibility of a trade, but the Wild don't really have the ammo to pull off a big trade and don't have any players they seem willing to lose. Burns and Shultz just got new contracts, and are young and integral to the future of the team, as is Bouchard, who is likely to receive an extension offer this summer. Koivu is a centerpiece of the offense along with Gaborik. And there aren't really any other players that are worth a Rolston caliber player. Hopefully they will be resigning Fedoruk, as he proved to be a tough guy with hands after the Stars haphazardly dropped him from the team.

As far as the free agent market goes Brooks Orpik is still available, and on a team that is trying to rebuild it's defense with Burns and Shultz as the franchise there, Orpik would be a great acquisition. Tough in front of the net, he has hands, a great shot. But that is all speculation. What isn't speculation is that they need to find another high scoring forward, someone who can hit twenty plus goals a season, now. The Wild are not a high scoring team and losing a player like Rolston hurts.

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